Skip to main content

Patti Page (1927 - 2013)

One of traditional pop music's greatest vocalists, Patti Page, died on New Year's Day in Encinitas, CA at the age of 85.

Just three months ago, Page ended her more than six decade touring career, writing on her website:
Over the past year and a half I have not focused on performance or recording but have been more attentive to the doctors, nurses and thoughtful caregivers who have been helping me face several medical challenges. Throughout my life I never really gave much thought to my senior years. I was always able to hop on a plane, go out on stage and make music with the band. At this point I am no longer able to do that. My travels now are quite limited to North San Diego County, CA where I have called home for the past four decades. Although I feel I still have the voice God gave me, physical impairments are preventing me from using that voice as I had for so many years. It is only He who knows what the future holds.
Page was born Clara Ann Fowler on November 8, 1927 in Claremore, Oklahoma to a poor family. Although she said she didn't initially have an interest in singing, she was told that she had a beautiful voice and set out to make her way in entertainment after graduating high school.

In 1945, Clara started performing on a local Tulsa radio program sponsored by the Page Milk Company from which she took her professional name. For the next couple of years, she toured with the Jimmy Joy Band until 1947 when Benny Goodman took her to Mercury Records.

During her first recording session, Page was forced to sing her own harmony parts due to a strike by background singers. Mercury's Mitch Miller handled the technical part of the task, making the single Confess the first to contain harmony singing by the artist themselves. The song went to number 12 on the national charts.

After a few more minor hits, Page broke through big nationally with her first gold record, With My Eyes Wide Open, I'm Dreaming (1950/#11) followed by I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine (1950/#8) and her first chart topper, All My Love (Bolero).

At the end of 1950, Page recorded her signature song, a cover of Pee Wee King's 1947 country hit, Tennessee Waltz. The record spent three months at the top of the Pop chart and went to number 2 on the Country Singles.

Tennessee Waltz pushed Patti's career into the stratosphere, which she capitalized on with ten top ten hits over the next two years including Mockin' Bird Hill (1951/#2), I Went to Your Wedding (1952/#1) and Why Don't You Believe Me (1952/#4). At the beginning of 1953, she scored her fourth number 1 with the novelty song (How Much is That) Doggie in the Window.

As popular music began to change, Page's hits became less frequent, although she was able to even break through the crush of new rock artists late in the decade with such hits as Allegheny Moon (1956/#2) and Old Cape Cod (1957/#3).

Patti became a fixture during this time on television with multiple appearances on Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen and other variety shows, leading to her hosting four different programs on both the major networks and in syndication during the decade. She also stuck her toe into the acting pool on programs like Playhouse 90 and in movies like Elmer Gantry.

The 1960's, her releases started doing less well on the Hot 100 but began making inroads on the newly established Adult Contemporary charts. She did manage one gold record during the decade with 1965's Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte (#8 Pop, #2 Adult Contemporary) and went top ten AC with Go On Home (1961/#9 AC), Most People Get Married (1962/#8 AC) and Gentle On My Mind (1968/#7 AC).

Page had left Mercury for Columbia Records in the mid-60's, but returned to her original label in 1970 where she began having a number of minor hits on the country charts. The biggest, Hello, We're Lonely (a duet with Tom T. Hall) peaked at number 14 in 1973. Her last charting song came in 1983.

For the rest of her career, Page was a popular live performer and continued to occasionally record new albums for a variety of labels. She won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance for her career first live album Live at Carnegie Hall: The 50th Anniversary Concert.  She also recorded the 1990 country duets album Brand New Tennessee Waltz with the likes of Suzy Bogguss, Alison Krauss and Tricia Yearwood.

Page was married three times, adopting a son and daughter during her second marriage to choreographer Charles O'Curran. She is survived by those children and a sister.